He put ‘everything he owned’ into the project in an attempt to prevent other families suffering the physical and emotional trauma that can so often result from such injuries. Kiehne’s inventive vision for his products and business has led to his role as Managing Director of Brisbane’s Occupational and Medical Innovations Ltd (OMI), enabling him to make his dream a reality. OMI became a listed public company in October 2000, and has performed strongly since.

A number of private investors, recognising Bruce’s own financial commitment and personal motivation, were keen to support the start up and development of the project. One local car retailer, for example, who was desperate to stop drug addicts shooting up in his car yard at night and leaving used syringes behind, contributed $300,000 to the project.

Despite the high risks and long hours involved in the development stages, OMI is now poised to reap the benefits with a number of multinationals interested in purchasing the patents and production technology for the syringe. 

OMI wants to keep its various technologies, including the syringe, in Australia for as long as possible and now proposes to build a pilot plant in Brisbane. The plant will house fully robotic assembly systems in a clean-room environment, to manufacture sufficient syringes to satisfy the Australian market. 

“Once we have production quality syringes we will be able to apply for the relevant approvals,” Kiehne said. (These include the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia, the US Food and Drug Administration and the ‘Conformite Europeene’ the European marking system for medical devices.) These approvals give the regulatory green light for sale in Australia, the US and Europe. 

Formal clinical trials and validation in Australia will run concurrently with those required overseas as part of this approval process.

The OMI safety syringe appears the same as a standard syringe but is unique in the way the needle is retracted to prevent injury.

Kiehne explains: “Once the injectable solution has been syringed through, an extra push causes the needle to be retracted and the syringe is automatically destroyed internally... totally sealing the needle from further access. Even if a needle has been bent to ninety degrees, the needle can still be completely retracted into the syringe barrel and made inaccessible.”

According to Kiehne, the safety syringe contains only one more component than a standard syringe – a small spring. “The syringe can be produced for a lot less than other retractable syringes already on the market – the cost is primarily in the assembly.”

OMI’s head industrial designer, Tony Horstman, admits that the project was one of his greatest challenges.

“Tolerancing and geometry are the core of the patent and the moulding constraints were horrendous,” said Horstman.

“We designed preliminary tooling that had as much scope as we could build in to it so that we could keep modifying and improving it.” With these difficult processes behind them, OMI now offers a robust, cost effective and reliable product to the syringe market.

OMI is extremely proud of its innovative design and prototyping team, keeping the expertise, product design and engineering, material science and moulding, in-house.

“When we approach multinationals, we are armed with all the necessary production and moulding specifications,” Kiehne explained.

“They will be buying a product with an entire production system and specification ready to go. Multinationals are only interested in concepts that can be manufactured.” 

OMI plans to begin production of commercial syringes within 12 months of adopting one of the manufacturing proposals currently under consideration.

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